During his brief visit to Hawaii this past week, Rep. Dennis Kucinich came to Sen. Akaka’s campaign HQ at the Dole Cannery complex on Saturday, August 12, to ‘rally the troops.’ He arrived a little late, but no one seemed to mind, perhaps because of the current disruption of air travel around the country. Despite the late notice of the event, a crowd of 50 or so (my personal guestimate) was waiting for him.
After working his way around the room greeting people, he was called to the podium at the front of the room by staffer Dave Chun, who gave him a brief and barely necessary introduction.
Kucinich’s remarks were narrowly focussed on praising Sen. Akaka (conscientiously “positive” comments), rather than talking about Sen. Case, eschewing any “negative” messaging. He stayed consistently “on message,” resisting questions from the audience about Case and other issues, and turning each question back to Sen. Akaka and his record.
He started out by talking about Sen. Akaka’s vote against the War in Iraq, and used it as an example of Akaka’s “Courage.” This is very good framing and messaging, because it not only focusses on a key voting difference between Akaka and Case, but it also stresses a character issue on which Case is vulnerable. Akaka supporters can use the “courage” meme to frame Akaka’s progressive positions, even when they don’t result in legislation. Furthermore, this framing poses a nice contrast with Case’s capitulation on Republican issues that Case likes to portray as “moderation.” I would nominate Case’s support of the Bankruptcy Bill as a good illustration here.
In other words, this framing places the contrast between candidates on the basis of character, with Akaka the clear winner.
Kucinich also referred frequently to Akaka’s “wisdom,” another character trait that compares favorably with Case. But again, Kucinich only stated the positive; he left his audience to formulate their own comparison with Case, and to draw their own conclusions.
At the end of his main remarks, Kucinich answered questions from the audience. He kept “on message,” refusing to be pulled off into questions that would dilute or change the focus on Akaka’s strengths.
Then it was time for some food, provided by the Akaka campaign.
Sen. Akaka himself arrived later, arriving soon after his flight from Molokai landed. It was a good opportunity to meet both of these long-serving politicians face to face, and even ask them questions.